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Pyrophosphate and orthophosphate addition to soils: sorption, cation concentrations, and dissolved organic carbon

T. M. McBeath A D , E. Lombi B , M. J. McLaughlin A B and E. K. Bünemann A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Soil and Land Systems, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, PMB1, Waite Campus, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

B CSIRO Land and Water, PMB 2, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.

C Present address: Institute of Plant Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), Eschikon 33, 8315 Lindau, Switzerland.

D Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Soil Research 45(4) 237-245
Submitted: 23 January 2007  Accepted: 10 May 2007   Published: 28 June 2007


Liquid polyphosphate fertilisers contain both orthophosphate and pyrophosphate, and have shown significant yield increases compared to granular orthophosphate fertiliser on highly phosphorus (P) fixing soils. The P sorption chemistry of the dominant P species in a polyphosphate fertiliser (pyrophosphate and orthophosphate) was compared on a range of Australian soils, and the effect of these P species on equilibrium solution chemistry was also examined.

Phosphorus supplied as pyrophosphate had a stronger sorption affinity than orthophosphate in all soils. The greater efficiency of pyrophosphate-based fertiliser on some soil types is therefore not due to reduced sorption of this P supplied as pyrophosphate compared to P supplied as orthophosphate fertiliser.

In general, the addition of pyrophosphate to soil resulted in a larger decrease in calcium concentration in solution compared to orthophosphate. In contrast, there was an increase in iron concentration in solution with pyrophosphate addition, indicating sequestration reactions associated with the dissolution of dissolved organic carbon into soil solution. The pyrophosphate ion generally mobilised more Fe into solution than orthophosphate in several soils, likely through complexation reactions leading to Fe desorption/dissolution from the soil solid phase.

These findings highlight the differences in soil chemical reactions that occur with the addition of polyphosphate fertilisers, which may contribute to their yield advantage in some soil types.

Additional keywords: phosphorus, partitioning, polyphosphate, ion chromatography, calcarosol.


The support of Liquid Fertiliser (Pty) Ltd trading as Agrichem is gratefully acknowledged. The authors thank the Australian Research Council (Linkage project LP0454086), the South Australian Grain Industry Trust (SAGIT), and Wesfarmers CSBP Ltd for providing funding to support this research program. The valuable comments of Professor J-L. Morel and Dr C. A. Grant are gratefully acknowledged.


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